Since the offseason began, rumors have swirled about the possibility of the Rays trading away some of their excellent starting pitching. With Matt Moore appearing to join Tampa’s rotation this season, it looks like the Rays will have a surplus of starters in 2011. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann, will for the fifth spot in the rotation in the spring, are two players that could very possibility be traded before deadline this summer. Last year’s ace James Shields has also been in the discussion, as teams have been interested in his services for a while now. Although the Rays have filled in their main roster holes via free agency this offseason, it’s still pretty likely that the Rays will seek a trade. Most of the offseason’s action is over, but the trade possibilities have not exactly faded. Recently, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Rays’ president Matt Silverman said he isn’t finished looking to trade away a starter. Considering how much sense it makes for the Rays to trade away pitching in exchange for offense, it’s no surprise that the front office is mulling this over. When a team lacks hitting and has a surplus of pitching, a trade is the obvious solution. Let’s take a look at eight possible deals that could get the Rays to trade away starting pitching. The bats on the trade market are limited, but there still are some intriguing possibilities for the Rays.
The Toronto Blue Jays are one team that would love to add to their starting pitching this offseason. Toronto’s rotation had their struggles last season, which is why a trade for Wade Davis could possibly light up their eyes. Most of what the Jays have to offer is down in their farm system. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria are two young players that should interest the Rays. Both are part of Toronto’s top 10 prospect list in 2011 (according to MLB.com). Blue Jays’ top prospect and former first-round pick Travis d’Arnaud is one exciting young prospect. The 22 year-old hit .311 with 78 RBI’s in 21 homers in Class AA New Hampshire last season. With impressive skills both offensively and defensively, d’Arnaud has the potential to be a successful big league catcher. A good backstop is something the Rays will be needing in the future, as their 36 year-old acquisition Jose Molina was only signed for a one-year deal. Because of the emergence of the young J.P. Arencibia, it is possible the Jays will think about trading d’Arnaud soon. According to sources, the Philadelphia Phillies have actually discussed obtaining d’Arnaud earlier this offseason. Adding prospect shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to the mix would really make a great deal for the Rays here. Shortstop is another area of need for the Rays, which should make Hechavarria pretty attractive. The 22 year-old Cuban-native batted .305 with 57 RBI’s and 20 stolen bases in the minors last year (AA and AAA).
Possible Trade: Wade Davis to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for minor league C Travis d’Arnaud and minor league SS Adeiny Hechavarria
Although the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t made any big moves for starting pitching in recent years, they may have the pieces to put together a potential deal with the Rays. Young outfielder Jose Tabata and former All-Star relief pitcher Evan Meek should be able to get the Rays to discuss a four-player swap. The Pirates would get Jeff Niemann and prospect starter Alex Torres, who went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA and 156 strikeouts last year during his season with AAA Durham. Tabata would be a great guy for the Rays to pick up, as he seems to have a bright future in the MLB. However, it’s very unlikely that the Pirates would give away Tabata, especially after the huge contract extension he received this August. The 23 year-old leftfielder had a rather dissapointing 2011, after a pretty impressive rookie season. Tabata batted .299 with 121 hits and 19 stolen bases through his 102 games in 2010. He saw a decline last season, batting .266 through his 91 games. Still, Tabata is a talented player who could easily develop as a star in the big leagues. Make no mistake, this is one guy the Rays would love to have in leftfield. The Rays have done a lot of work this winter continuing to build their young bullpen. Right-handed reliever Evan Meek is somebody the Rays would love to add to their ‘pen, even if it’s worth giving up a prospect like Torres. Meek’s career stats include a 3.08 ERA and 7-7 record through four seasons (160.2 innings pitched).
Possible Trade: Jeff Niemann and Alex Torres to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for LF Jose Tabata and RP Evan Meek
Here’s a trade that’s a great idea for the Rays, as well as a win-win for both sides. Ryan Hanigan is exactly what the Rays need. He’s a catcher who’s consistent, has a high on-base percentage, and a very reasonable salary. Hanigan owns a career line .275/.371/.368. It’s nothing special and he doesn’t produce many runs, but his good defense and ability to get on base is something that must attract the Rays. As for Cincinnati’s point of view; they definitely get their end of the deal here. Alex Cobb is an underrated pitching prospect, and he’s proved that he can succeed at the big league level. Cobb went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in his brief MLB stint last season. He also went 5-1 with a terrific 1.87 ERA at AAA Durham. This is a move the Rays need to continue to pursue. If the Rays want Ryan Hanigan, the chances of them working out a deal is not bad at all. The Reds will probably not be too hesitant to send their veteran catcher to Tampa, as they may have a franchise catcher in the making. Reds’ top prospect Devin Mesoraco could possibly take over the catching spot pretty soon, potentially making Hanigan a possible trade piece for Cincinnati. Interestingly, Hanigan was almost dealt to the Rays earlier this offseason. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Rays discussed trading for Seth Smith (who was on the Colorado Rockies then) and then sending him to Cincinnati in exchange for Hanigan. Even before that, ESPN’s David Schoenfield mentioned his name in article about trades he thought were reasonable. So if Hanigan does end up in Tampa Bay, nobody should be too surprised.
Possible Trade: Alex Cobb and C Robinson Chirinos to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for C Ryan Hanigan
Unfortunately for the Mets, they haven’t been able to add to their struggling pitching staff during their miserable offseason. Here’s a four-player deal that would make sense for both sides. The Rays did find their first baseman when the picked up Carlos Pena earlier this month, but it still could be an area of need in the future. Mets’ first baseman Daniel Murphy may not get much attention at all, but he’s a perfect fit in Tampa. The 26 year-old is a career .292 hitter (.320 in last year), and he’s even shown he has some pop in his bat during his three big league seasons. Murphy could be a serious trade target for the Rays in the future, as he probably doesn’t have a future with the Mets. Ike Davis seems to be emerging into a quality baseball player in New York, and it looks as if he’ll become their everyday first baseman. It shouldn’t shock anybody if the Rays pursue this guy in the future. Wilmer Flores, who is one of the top prospects in the Mets’ organization, is another player that I could imagine the Rays would like in the trade package. Being a shortstop, the 20 year-old would be a great addition to the Rays’ farm system. Although Flores hasn’t done that much statistically yet in the minors, scouts seem to be convinced that this youngster has what it takes to succeed.
Possible Trade: Jeff Niemann and Alex Cobb to the New York Mets in exchange for 1B Daniel Murphy, and minor league SS Wilmer Flores
This trade is very simple, yet very effective. I don’t see anything wrong with a Davis-Trumbo trade. Since Albert Pujols is now the first baseman in Anaheim, Trumbo’s future with the Angels is questionable. Trumbo himself has already acknowledged the fact that he may be traded. The question is, would the Angels be interested in one of the Rays’ starters? Right now it looks like their five-man rotation is set to go. However, I think Davis could actually give an already great rotation a boost. The Angels don’t have a solid starter in the fifth spot, and there’s a good chance that Davis can put up better numbers than Ervin Santana (fourth spot) this season. From the Rays’ side of things, Trumbo would obviously be a terrific acquisition. The 26 year-old has all the tools to become a big-time slugger in the majors. Trumbo had an outstanding rookie season, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He smacked 29 dingers and drove in 87 runs, showing off some raw power.If the Rays want a long-term first baseman, Mark Trumbo is their answer.
Possible Trade: Wade Davis to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for 1B Mark Trumbo
Mitch Moreland could potentially be another first base option for the Rays. He may not be the same type of player as Trumbo, but he sure does know how to hit. In his first full season last year, Moreland put up a .259/.320/.414 line including 16 homers and 51 RBI’s. He’s also pretty good defensively at first, even though he doesn’t play the position everyday. With catcher Mike Napoli very capable of playing first, it seems likely that he’ll get a lot of playing time their this year. That means that Moreland’s name may soon pop up in trade rumors. It will be interesting to see if the Rangers negotiate with the Rays, as Texas would love to strengthen their starting rotation. Minor League outfielder Jake Skole is the another piece that could complete a trade package for Davis. The first-round draftee excites scouts with his excellent athletic ability. At just 20, he hasn’t done that much yet statistically speaking. Skole batted .264 with nine homers, 62 RBI’s, and 21 stolen bases during his season at Class A ball last year.
Possible Trade: Wade Davis to the Texas Rangers in exchange for 1B Mitch Moreland and minor league outfielder Jake Skole
The Kansas City Royals could really use one of the Rays’ starting pitchers. They actually offered a deal for James Shields back in the Winter Meetings. They might not have what it takes to bring Shields to Kansas City, but they probably could work out a trade for Jeff Niemann. For Shields the Royals offered closer Joakim Soria, their top prospect, and prospect Christian Colon. For Niemann, the Royals could offer Soria and prospect Clint Robinson to make a deal. The Rays would love to add a solid closer like Soria to their ‘pen. The future of the closer role is very questionable, as Kyle Farnsworth will be a free agent after the 2012 season. Soria owns a career ERA of 2.40 and 160 saves (162 game average of 37). He had the worst season of his career last year, but he’s still an effective closer. It wouldn’t be a shocker if Soria is traded, as his name has come up multiple times in trade rumors. First baseman Clint Robinson is one of top position prospects in the Royals’ farm system. The 26 year-old left-handed slugger is putting up huge numbers in minor leagues. Last year in AAA Omaha, Robinson posted a .326/.399/.533 line while blasting 23 home runs and 100 RBI’s. With Kansas City’s young star Eric Hosmer appearing to be their future first baseman, it’s possible that Robinson could end up as a trade piece for the Royals.
Possible Trade: Jeff Niemann to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RP Joakim Soria and minor league 1B Clint Robinson.
The Orioles have been looking to upgrade their starting pitching for a while now, and a trade may be the best way to find their man. Adam Jones’ name immediately comes to mind, who has been subject to trade rumors throughout the offseason. The 26 year-old outfielder owns a career line of .275/.319/.437, and hit 20+ homers and 80+ RBI’s for the first time in his career last season. Jones has great potential in the MLB, and his offensive could really be used in Tampa. There is a question as to how well Jones would suit the Rays, though. Being a centerfielder, it would be interesting see how he would fit in the same outfield as B.J. Upton. However, if Upton is traded at some point in the future, this could become a serious trade possibility. The chances of a Adam Jones trade happening for the Rays are very slim. This is more of a “what-if” trade scenario.
Possible Trade: Wade Davis and Alex Cobb to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for CF Adam Jones